I find peoples’ reaction to Savasana very interesting. Some people absolutely love it; in fact lots of people wish the whole 75 minutes of class was Savasana! Others are not so keen, some of the reasons are; they are scared they will fall asleep and snore or they can’t stop thinking. Some people, dare I say it, find it excruciating, the act of lying still fills them with fear. I have heard it said that it is the hardest pose. For those of us who can’t bear the thought of lying still with our own thoughts that is certainly true, it is a challenge for most to clear the mind. However, Savasana also allows the mind and body to integrate the benefits of your practice, so it is a crucial part of the practice. It is the one pose that is consistent across all yoga classes, it's not going away! This being the case, we thought it was high time that we explain the benefits and importance of this pose; in fact, we think it is the MOST important pose of all.
Savasana is translated as Corpse Pose, the name is a tad disturbing perhaps, but it's not actually about dying. It is about the old you (the one that walked into the yoga room) ‘dying’ and the new you (the one that’s just done a delicious yoga class) coming back to life. Savasana is kind of like the pause button on your remote control, it gives your body time to absorb all of those wonderful poses you just did. It also enables you to bring your asana (poses) into your self-awareness via meditation. Hang on meditation you say? Well yes, Savasana is a form of meditation. However, if you are one of the aforementioned people who don’t like it or your mind wanders, it may not feel like it. You might be doing mental checklists, or thinking about work or dinner. Let’s address this first, why is this so? Well, in the more physically challenging poses, let’s say Garudasana (Eagle pose) or Utkatasana (Chair pose) your focus is most likely on your burning legs than your shopping list. When we get to Savasana however, there are less physical things to focus on, it is time to be present, let go of tension and surrender. If you are having trouble quietening the mind, here are our tips:
- Detach from judgment, stop being hard on yourself for thinking! It’s natural, it is not going to stop, but you can become an observer and not follow your thoughts.
- Adding on from above, simply label what is happening internally as ‘thoughts’ or ‘thinking’ they will lose their power and releasing them becomes easier.
- Focus on the breath just as you do in your poses, focus on the physical sensation of the belly rising and falling, or the feel of the breath at the nostrils, or you can count the length of the in and out breaths.
Ok now you have some techniques to use in Savasana, let’s now look at some of the important benefits:
Ability to connect with the breath: Breathing is a funny thing, we often take it for granted as it is a function of our autonomic nervous system, we don’t have to think, it occurs. BUT the wonderful thing is we can also control our breath, we can make it longer and deeper and help calm ourselves right into a state of bliss. In Savasana, notice how delicious each breath is. Enjoy it.
Physical relief: The body holds tension and stress that is no brainer, and stress is linked to health problems. Take the opportunity in Savasana to release this tension. Do a mental scan of your body starting at the toes, where you find areas of tension, let go, send the breath there and mentally tell the area to relax. Allow the body to become heavy and melt into the Earth.
Mental relief: The world and life is crazy busy. How often to you get 5 minutes to yourself? Savasana is the perfect time to switch off the old brain cells; it is an open invitation to find some peace. If you are having trouble quietening the mind, try one of the techniques we suggested earlier.
Absorb the benefits of practice: Savasana allows the body to absorb and integrate the benefits of your practice into your muscle memory, mind and nervous system. It allows the physical body (heart rate, blood pressure etc) and nervous system to return to baseline. It also feeds into our practice. All poses require effort and they also all require the quality of surrender that we learn in Savasana. In other words, the physical effort is balanced with a calm, focused mind and quiet even breathing which we learn in Savasana.
Make friends with death: There is so much fear around the inevitable death we all face, yet Savasana is peaceful and unintimidating, there we can acknowledge our own transience.
If you are one of the people that doesn’t care that much for Savasana, we hope we have given you some reasons to look at this pose with fresh eyes. Hopefully, the tips on how to get more out of it really do help you quieten the mind and find a state of bliss (or comfortableness at the very least!). For those of you who are in the 'Team Savasana' camp, we hope that this has been informative and you go into the next Savasana, with more knowledge about the good it is doing for you.
Western Wellness Team
(Your friendly neighbourhood yogis)